Sunday, 15 April 2018

Crawley 24 track hour race

My last 24 hour race was Bislett 2014.  During and afterwards I said that’s it for 24 hour races as I had had one too many bad ones.  I spent a lot of 2016 either injured or recovering from injury; during my recovery I decided that I wanted to give 24 hours another go.  Training had not gone as hoped due to hamstring tendonopathy which I picked up around June last year.  The injury was not bad enough to stop me running but severely restricted speedwork so most of my miles were done at a steady pace with the odd faster run thrown in but no interval sessions or hills.  I hoped that this would not affect me too much for a 24 hour race but it did mean i didn’t feel as fit as I would have liked.

A couple of months before 24 hour races I like to do a 100km/12 hour.  However, given that this was early season there was not much to choose from unless I went for off road and hilly which I hate.  My best option was was 75km Canalathon 2 weeks before; probably a bit close but if I didn’t do something pretty long I wouldn’t feel prepared and half the battle with these things is in the head.   I didn’t have a great day at the Canalathon.  Things just didn’t feel that good from the off.  Maybe the terrain (it was very muddy early on) or having to carry stuff; neither of which I am used to.  So pre  Crawley I was having a bit of a confidence crisis but tried to remind myself of some good 6 ish hour events I had in

Target setting was very difficult as I knew I was not in very good shape compared to my best (132miles in Basel 2013) so it’s kind of hard to be happy with anything less.  I had a good look at my training log from 2013 and compared it to today.  My MP is currently about a minute per mile slower but my steady training run pace more like 35-45s slower.  I figured that 120 miles would therefore be a realistic goal if all went well.  However, i didn’t want to get too obsessed with
goals as I give up mentally and then extend the walk breaks if I realise I’m not going to hit my goal.  I had roughly worked out something like 35/32/29/26 miles split into 6 hour blocks giving 2 miles spare for toilet stops.  However in reality I know it never works like that, this was more a guideline and if I fell below that was ok as long as I didn’t do less than 110 miles - that was my absolute
minimum (unless I had an injury or other major issue).

The plan was to walk a lap and eat every hour for quite a while and in addition to have something small on the half hour after a few hours.  I would introduce walks on the half hour when I felt I needed them.   I have made a few changes to my nutrition since my last 24 hour race - I have more liquid calories and more gels as they are so much easier than getting solid food down.

The first 4 hours passed quickly and comfortably.  As usual I set off a bit fast but it felt comfortable and I struggle to slow myself down to run at what feels uncomfortably slow.  Up to about 4 hours all was good but I felt I was slowing a bit so decided it was time to introduce a half hour half a lap walk break.  I know in 24 hour races that come the last 6 hours or so there is a lot of walking so a bit more earlier on might delay the time it takes to get to the death march!

After 6 hours I had covered 36.5 miles so a bit ahead of my fairly arbitrary plan but not too much to be of concern and I hadn’t had any toilet stops by this stage.  Quads were beginning to feel a bit tired but not too bad.  The next block of 6 hours is where I get a better idea of where I am at because i can work out my ‘fade’.  Anyone can run a decent 6 hours but can they run another 6 hours after that.  In my previous 24 hour races I seem to have a big drop off in the 2nd 6 hours.  I’m not sure if it would be better if I started slower.   Possibly not because I have done longer races in the past as training runs where I have started slower and still faded quite a lot.

During this next block I started struggling with solids - a bit earlier than usual - so started on the gels,
chocolate soya milk and coke.   My half lap walk breaks on the half hour had extended to a lap.  By 12 hours I had completed 67.3 miles so that was 30.8 miles in the 2nd 6 hours.  At this point I knew I was not going to hit 120 miles because although my 12 hour mileage was on target the fade rate was too big.  I thought / hoped that 115 miles would be possible though.

Phil went back to the hotel soon after midnight but left out plenty of bottles and food so I wouldn’t need to waste much time sorting myself out.  My walk breaks had extended to 2 laps then 3 laps at which point I realised I was walking far too much so instead of having two walks on the half hour I

just had the one long one then ran for just over half an hour.  Once the goals are out the window it’s hard to stay motivated and all too easy to walk a bit too much.  By now I was really struggling with solid food.  It took me 2 laps to eat a packet of crisps! The only solid I could get down easily was marzipan.

18 hours - 93.9 miles so the 3rd 6 hours was 26.6 - the fade was not as bad as the 2nd 6 hours so that was promising and as long as no major meltdown 115 miles would be do able.

Phil came back soon after 6am and it started to get light which always feels good. I felt that when I was running I wasn’t running too badly but it must have been around 12mm, it didn’t feel that slow!  Phil went back to the hotel around 7.30 to shower, pack up and check out.  It was at 8am I had my biggest low.  The 12 hour race finished and seeing them all stop made me feel really jealous.  Phil wasn’t there either so I got emotional and had a bit of a cry for a few laps.  4 hours was still a long time to go and moving forward was such an effort.  I tried to think about it in terms of miles instead of time because I was going so slowly there was probably little over half marathon to go.

I haven’t yet mentioned my competitors and that is because I was going into this to do the best that I could in terms of distance and damage limitation.  Any position was a bonus so I had to keep out of my mind what others were doing.  I knew Sarah was starting slowly with a view to holding it as long as possible.  I thought she would pass me between 6-8 hours which she did.  This did not bother me at
all as I was running my own race, I was pleased that she was running well and went on to hit her target.   Each hour the leaderboard is updated so of course I looked at my position in the field and in the ladies but I wasn’t letting it change how I was running my race. I was quite pleased that the guy ahead of me was a mile or so up with a few hours to go as this meant I wasn’t tempted/didn't feel obliged to try to catch him up!

In the final hours my run / walk was a bit haphazard.  Run a bit walk a bit just moving forward, not pushing myself too hard.  I think that had 120miles been in the cards I would have made more effort but it wasn’t so I wasn’t going to break myself.  My foot had been hurting from about 19 hours and was getting worse.  Paracetamol didn’t touch it so I tried voltoral gel which was no good either.  I don’t think I was limping but it was very uncomfortable and made those last few hours hurt more than they needed to. Nothing else really hurt I was just tired, grumpy and ready to stop!  With a couple of hours to go I knew 115 miles was pretty much in the bag and as my run pace was not a great deal faster than walking there wasn’t much to be gained by running lots so I was able to justify lots of walking.

The last hour must have been one of the longest hours of my life.  With about 10miuntes to go your
are given a beanbag with your number on.  When the horn sounds you stop and place the beanbag where you finish.  I worked out that if I walked the last couple of laps I would finish just by some chairs.  I think this must be the only 24 hour Race where I haven’t made an effort to run at the end to try to eeek out a few extra metres! On finishing I was so pleased to have a sit down - thanks for the chair Lindley!

Final distance was 117 miles so just over 23 miles for the last 6 hours i.e. very slow.  I was 4th overall and 2nd lady.  I was happy ish but a little disappointed not to hit 120 miles.  At 12 hours when I had been sure it wasn’t possible I walked a lot more.  If I had realised my fade wasn’t going to be so bad in the 3rd and 4th quarter then could I have hit 120 miles by walking a bit less? I’m not sure.  The walk breaks help.  If I had walked less maybe my run pace would have been slower? It’s hard to know but I do know I walked more than I needed to because I wasn’t prepared to push myself to the limits if I wasn’t going to hit my goal.

Post race I went for a shower and saw the extent of the foot damage.  Went to the Dr Monday as I had cellulitis so am now on antibiotics.  A week later it has more or less gone down.  The chip had grazed my skin so that must be where the infection got in.  The rest of my legs felt good really quickly, much more quickly than usual.  If it wasn’t for my foot I could have run on Tuesday - I wouldn’t have done as I want to recover properly but I felt good enough to run.

A few bits of info:
Kit - wore the same clothes throughout, it was warm enough not to need a jacket although it did rain for quite a while -  I just got wet and dried out!
Shoes  - skechers gorun ride 6 - got one blister which I didn't notice until after
Food - powerbars; 9bars; marzipan; about 8 gels; crisps
Drink - loads of coke and chocolate/strawberry soya milk; high5 electrolyte; OTE sports drink; AminoGo sports drink
Toilet stops - I think about 6

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Brugg 12 hour race

After my DNF at around 50 mile at Berlin 100 due to a hip flexor issue which came out of nowhere I needed another race.  I felt that the safest option was a timed event as technically you can’t DNF and if you stop early you don’t have to get rescued/find your way back on public transport feeling miserable.

Since Berlin the hip has been fine but I still have a bit of hamstring tendonopathy which has been going on since July .  I am able to run steadily but not do anything fast so although I have been able to get in reasonably decent miles I have not been able to do any speed/tempo/hill work as these all aggregate the hamstring.

Running had been up and down.  Some days I felt good but others sluggish which I think was from continually plodding.  The hamstring has been improving but still not enough to be happy with anything fast.  I entered the race feeling confident I could go the distance provided the hip flexor didn’t have a tantrum again.  I was less worried about the hamstring as that is more or less OK when running at ultra pace.

The event is a 24/12/6 hour.  The 24 hour started at noon; the 12 hour at midnight. I arrived around 6pm; had a look around to identify the toilets, check out the food, make up my drinks and then try (unsuccesfully) to sleep.

A midnight start is difficult as I am normally in bed by then.  When I got up at 11pm I really didn’t fancy starting a run, I just wanted to stay ‘in bed’.  About half an hour before I started drinking a caffeine drink which must have worked as by the time we started I wasn’t raring to go!  I didn’t have especially big ideas in terms of distance.  In April I had done 117km on the track.  I knew I wasn’t in such good shape due to lack of speed and I didn’t have anyone crewing which helps save a lot of time faffing with food and drink as well as keeping you on track.  I thought that 105-110km was fairly realistic but I was more interested in having a solid run and being reasonably strong at the end as well as coming through it with no injuries.

tables provided to put your own food/drinks
As always the first few laps were a bit too fast but I soon settled into a more suitable pace where I wasn’t dawdling but was hopefully not working too hard either. Each lap was 938.2m which made calculations interesting so I had a simple plan of laps per hour which had a bit of a fade.  From experience I know that Garmin’s measure quite a bit long on short laps/tracks so I couldn’t rely on it for distance.  The set up I went for was a small lap counter on my finger so I could count my own laps and Garmin so I could keep an eye on my mile splits and rough distance.   The race was chip timed.  Just after you went over the chip mat the results were projected onto the side of a white gazebo.  The last 10 people to go over the mat were displayed.  You could see last lap time; distance; number of laps and position ( which I think was age group position).

I hadn’t really decided on a run walk strategy other than there would be one!  I was feeling good and running well from the off so decided to do approx 1hour run then a few minutes walk.  11 laps took around an hour, the food was the other side so I did 11.5 laps before my first walk and bottle of OTE. For this race I was experimenting by taking on more calories from fluids as I have struggled during night runs with solid food.

lap counter
In terms of the race, I thought I was 3rd lady.  A lady had passed me a few laps in and another who had been running on my shoulder got ahead when I had my walk.  A few laps after I started running again i caught up with the lady who had been on my shoulder,  she looked to have slowed down a lot.  I passed her then she came with me staying on my shoulder.  Each time we were coming up to the chip mat she would go past me so she was ahead going over the mat then she let me get ahead and would run right behind me again.   I was getting fed up with these shenanigans; I had tried to talk to her but there were language barriers! I decided to play a game to see I feel she really was trying to get over that mat first so I picked the pace up quite significantly just before the mat - she came with me so I knew she was on a mission to get over that mat first.

11 laps later I have another walk and a powerbar.  Stalker lady slows down until I catch her up then she starts her games again.  This continued until just after 3 hours when she slowed down significantly and I started lapping her regularly.   I was managing to hold a fairly consistent pace a little ahead of schedule but not too far ahead that I should be worrying! I had decided that I would do 11 laps run for 4 hours then drop to 10 laps for the next 4 then 8 laps.   For each walk break I was grabbing a bottle of drink and sometimes food.  On the half hour I was grabbing a cup of coke and walking for about 10seconds to drink it.

At 4 hours I was feeling good still and holding the pace reasonably well.  I stopped to put some ‘novisport’ on my quads.  The grease and the rubbing made the lap counter come off my finger.  I had already been stopped longer than I would have liked as I had a gel which I couldn’t get open and had to use wet wipes to clean my hands so didn’t want to mess around getting it back on again ( there wasn’t also not too much need as the screen was giving me the lap info.  I needed the toilet but it wasn’t despirate so decided to hold on - managed to hold until my next walk - ask I was still feeling good I persuaded myself to stick to 11 laps run few minutes walk until 6 hours! Pace was now slowing as a little but was still nothing drastic.

After around 6 hours I was told I was 1st lady and 1st overall.  This was a big boost but also made me realise I couldn’t relax if I wanted to keep this position.  The lady who was ahead must have been in the relay.  I was feeling suspiciously good for 6 hours compared to some recent runs but as I was slowing dropped to 10 laps before a walk.  On my next walk break I was eating a powerbar when all of a sudden I had to go! This happened at my last 12 hour race - no warning!
The lady in second place was running a consistent pace without walking. I was a lap ahead but when
I had my walk she would pass.  It would take about 5 laps for me to catch her then I wound gain a bit have a walk and she would pass again.  I looked at her splits after; I don’t think thinknshe even went to the Toilets!!

After around 7 hours it was finally getting lift.  Although the course was lit there was one bit with a bump which I nearly tripped on a few times.  I hadn’t been been able to see my watch on the walking bit in the dark; now it was light I could see it and see that I hadn’t been walking that long on previous walk breaks - I walked until the corner - so now I could see the watch I walked a bit longer to make it nearer 5 minutes.

Stopped again for some more ‘novisport’ for my quads which were now starting to feel a bit tired.  Once I got past the 50 mile mark I was really happy as I had no issues with my hip flexor or hamstring and had  got beyond the distance I managed in Berlin feeling significantly better.  I was still holding a pace of comfortably under 10mm and feeling not too bad considering the distance covered.

100km flag
I think it was the last couple of hours where things got noticeably harder.  The laps were no linger being projected as it wasn’t too light so I had no idea of the laps. I knew that at 100km we got a flag to carry so was willing that moment to come.  I got the flag at around 10.30.  The only issue was that I didn’t know where on the lap 100km was so assumed it was at the end of the lap as the worse case scenario.  I then planned to count laps (I should have picked up the lap counter ) but soon lost count.  I knew that if I stuck to around 10mm with a walk then I should get 110km.

Wendy had been keeping me up to date with my lead - I just had one lap so couldn’t afford to slack off.  I was ahead of 2nd by a lap and a bit then with an hour to go she went past me whilst I was running.  Previously she had only passed whilst I had been walking.  She had obviously started to pick up the pace for the final hour and throw everything at it.  I did not need this!! I was hoping to just plod it out for the last hour knowing that baring a calf cramp or similar I would hit 110km.
I realised that I could not afford to have my walk break which was due at about 11.10 so instead grabbed a drink and walked for about 20s.  She gained about 50m whist I walked so I Just tried to keep that’s gap the same not allowing it to grow but also not pushing the pace as I didn’t want her to go any faster.  I could have gone a bit faster if i really had to but my calf felt like it might go into spasm so I didn’t need want to do more than I needed.  Every couple of laps I would grab a cup an drink walk for a few seconds drinking.  She was doing the same but walking less so she was gaining a tiny bit each time.  I knew she was hurting though as she was just randomly throwing her cups rather than putting them in the bin like everyone else.

The end
With a about half an hour to go where she was probably about 100m ahead on the lap (but I was still one lap up) I was trying to work out what pace she would need to run a treadmill to catch me up if I stuck to around 10mm.  Unfortunately my brain couldn’t work it out as I was too tired but it kept me I occupied for a few minutes trying! With 15 minutes to go she was gaining a little but not much.  I thought that unless she pulled out a sprint then I was safe but I couldn’t relax.  I just kept myself eye on her to make sure she’s didn’t suddenly put her foot down! It was only with about 5 minutes to go that I felt I was safe! I knew I had done more than my target so felt no real need to throw absolutely everything at it for the last lap.  I should have done though as it would have been nice to make another compete lap! I finished about 10m short of another lap it didn’t really matter as I had surpassed what I had set out to do!

Final result 1st lady 1st overall 114.927km which I was over the moon with.  The race was really well organised,  I would def recommend it although if like me you only speak English don’t expect much conversation with other runners!

Shoes and socks
Skechers go run ride 6
Hilly twin skin - no blisters

Food and drink
OTE vanilla
Tailwind berry
High5 4:1 berry
Aminogo berry burst
Genesis pre workout (also took during)
Vanilla soya milk with added electrolyte
4x gels
2x 9bars
2x powerbar coconut
Lots of bits of banana

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Berlin 100 mile

In 2014 I did two 24 hour races; both went badly.  I said no more of these they took too much out of me both emotionally and physically and I couldn't deal with yet another failure.   I decided to stick to 12 hour/100km type distance max. 

I spent a lot of last year injured.  As I was starting to run again I felt that I was ready (mentally) to have another go at 24 hours I just needed to wait until I was ready physically.  In April I did a 12 hour track race and in May 100km London to Brighton so was reasonably well prepared.  I had decided to go for the Berlin 100 mile race rather than a 24 hour as I have never actually done a 100 mile race even though I have always done more than 100 miles in 24 hours.

The route follows the old Berlin wall.  It is described as being flat but for someone who is used to 24 hours on a track it wasn't flat!!  The hills are mostly fairly short, I remember thinking Phil might have found some of them hard on the bike! I ran them for the first few hours then walked as did those around  The route was a mixture of pavements; tarmac or gravel tracks away from the road; forest and a few bits I didn't like of cobblestones (one long section and one shorter downhill bit around 45 miles which I walked as it was quite steep and I was worried about falling over).  Although it had a lot of off road sections it was defiantly a road shoe run but a cushioned rather than light weight road shoe to give protection from the stones.   I think most people would go with something more cushioned anyway for 100 miles but I did notice a fast looking guy wearing skechers gorun  which are my racing shoe! I was in go run ride which were perfect for the event.

The course was really well marked with arrows on the ground; most of the time I could see the person infront so didn't really need to look for the arrows.  There were 27 aid stations between 5-8km apart so if you are not fussy about what you eat/drink you don't need to carry much at all.   There are 3 drop bags which you can collect after the race so you can put just in case things in these and if you don't take them you still get them back.

We were staying at the H2 hotel which was next door to the H4 (race HQ).  Number pick up was Friday afternoon then an English race briefing at 5pm followed by a pasta party which had a good selection of pastas and salads (included in race entry).  The prize giving was at 2pm Sunday. You have to go to this to get your medal but get your T shirt at the finish. 

The race started at 6am.  A shuttle bus was provided from the hotel to the start which took about 10 minutes. There was breakfast at the start if you wanted it (also included) and coffee.  The start was at a stadium with plenty of space to wait indoors and the toilet queue was not too long! 

At registration we had been supplied with 4 bags.  3 were the drop bags and one the finish bag which was just left in the changing room.  I noted a lot of stairs up to the changing room!! 

With about 350 solo runners (relays started at 7am) the start was a bit congested as too many slower people started at the front and we had to do 3/4 lap around the track.  Fairly soon I was able to run at my own pace.  When I say my own pace I tend to run to effort rather than pace so zoned in to 'easy effort' and take whatever pace that happens to be.  This equated to a slower pace than I expected.  I was not sure why as I was well tapered so my legs were fresh.  I was quite tired from lack of sleep for a few nights and unnecessary other stresses so maybe that was why.

The early miles ticked by quickly.  At 10km we were given a rose to place at a memorial (about 20m later) of someone who was shot crossing the wall (its a different person every year).  My plan was to walk for a few minutes after each check point and to walk the hills.  I somehow managed to miss the first check point - it was just water so probably smaller - so had my first walk at the second one just after 8 miles.  I ran to here with Jon but lost him when I stopped for a walk.  Found him again after he stopped for the toilet but soon after he was way ahead!

The checkpoints varied slightly but all seemed to have apples and bananas (chopped up) little cup cakes (really yummy bite size choc ones), waffles, gels, coke and water.  There were other things but these are the things I took.  AT each check point I had a cup of water or coke then grabbed some food to eat whilst walking.  A few times I had to fill my bottle; we were told at the briefing we were not allowed to fill our own but had to hand them over to be filled- this was done very quickly so by the time I had handed it over drunk a cup of coke, grabbed some food it was handed back to me - they even put my high5/OTE powder in the bottle when I handed that over so that was one less thing for me to fiddle about with.

There were a fair few road crossings.  We were told in the briefing that crossing when the red man was showing could result in a DQ so there was a bit of stopping and waiting.  This made it difficult to predict times/pace but I could tell from my garmin I was having a slow day when I looked at my real time pace.

The first drop bag was at 33km.  They seemed to have them all laid out in number order and only took a few seconds to get my bag.  I decided to just take everything from my drop bag for quickness even though I didn't need it then I could throw the bag away.  I had a few bars; drinks sachets and gels but up to this point hadn't used any of my own food.  I knew I couldn't throw away my second drop bag as it had spare socks and T shirt in so thought I would faff a bit longer at that one with what I needed and didn't need.  Probably spent about 3 minutes at that drop bag so not too bad I suppose.

I found myself running bits with other people and bits on my own as different people had different run walk strategies so there was a lot of passing and being passed by the same people.  This event is big on bike support.  No bikes are allowed until check point 3 then they are allowed until the end.  Mostly they were OK, there was only one who got in my way a bit as she wanted to be right by her runner at all times so would push past me unnecessarily.  Phil was going to be meeting me on the bike at around 8.30pm just before it got dark and then stay with me until the end.

A bit earlier than I would have liked /expected based on training runs my pace had slowed to 10-10.30mm.  No idea why; I was feeling a bit sluggish and it was feeling harder than it should have done.  My quads started to ache a bit somewhere mid 30s I think.  This was far too soon.  They had been totally fine on a 40 mile training run at a faster pace a month before.

I was quite pleased to get to the 70km drop bag just because it gave me an excuse for a mini break!  I had a sit down to sort out my drop bag.  It had been raining most of the morning so I was going to change my T shirt and socks but about an hour before this drop bag it stopped so my T shirt was just a bit damp rather than wet.  I sorted out the food I wanted to take which wasn't much as I had still mostly been eating the food which was provided.  As my legs were feeling sore I put some more aloe heat gel on them as that takes the edge off a bit then off I went after probably 4-5mins.

I felt fine leaving the checkpoint.  I bit more tired than I would like to have been at 70km into a 160km race but often things don't get worse.  I remember thinking that if I felt like this at 120km when I met Phil I would be very happy!  Although my pace had slowed early on it seemed to have stuck at around the mid 10mm mark now so if it were to stay like that I could still have a decent race despite the initial early slow down.   Here I should probably say that I do not aim for even pace in ultras of this length but rather keep the effort level about the same so the pace gradually slows down.

At each aid station there was a notice up telling you the distance; distance to go and distance to next check point.  This was all in km and my garmin was in miles so as I left each check point I would work out the distance to the next one in miles then work out what that would be on my garmin.  This kept me entertained for a couple of minutes and helped preserve the battery on my shuffle as I turned that off when I was doing sums!!

Coming into the next check point at 47.x miles my quads were a bit hurty.  Both my hip flexors were aching a bit but not too bad.  I stopped to drink some coke and before I finished the coke I got pain like I have never had before in my hip flexor /upper thigh area.  I sat down and took some Ibuprofen which I wouldn't normally take in a race but it was an emergency.  Earlier in the year I had a bit of trouble in that area when I started doing faster long runs or racing marathons.  It was always fine the next day but at the time would hurt.  This was a similar area but the pain was far worse.

After a couple of minutes I thought I might as well set off to the next check point walking to give the Ibuprofen chance to work.  Even walking was really painful but I hoped the Ibu would soon kick in and all would be well again.   After about 5-10 minutes the reality of what was happening started to dawn on me.  Given how bad the pain was; even if Ibuprofen did work to take away the pain I would need to keep taking it as I still had another 50 miles to go.  And given that it was bad pain something was not happy so running 50 miles on it was not going to be a very good idea. As I have had this before I know its one of those things which ease off as you run.    At this point I should have turned around and gone back to the aid station as the next one was 6km away.  However I wasn't quite ready to admit that my race was over.

That 6km walk was horrible.  Not only was I in pain but my race was over and lots of people were passing me.  Some stopped to walk to ask if I was OK and a lovely English chap on a bike with his wife running cycled with me for a while and offered me money for a taxi - I hope that she finished as last year she didn't make it.

Eventually I got to the aid station and was told how to get back to the hotel (bus then train).  As the race is one big loop around berlin you are never too far from the city.  It took about an hour to get back.

This was a really well organised race and everyone (runners and volunteers) were so friendly and supportive.   I will be back and would defiantly recommend it to anyone thinking of doing a 100 miler. 

I have never had a DNF in an ultra before.  My only DNF was a marathon where I dropped down to half so not sure if you count that.  Had this been another 12 hour race I would have been upset of course.  However, it has taken me almost 3 years to feel ready to do another mega distance race so the disappointment is so much greater as well as the feelings of failure.

The race was on Saturday.  It is now Wednesday.  As I only got to half way my legs have recovered pretty well.  On the few short runs I have done my hip flexor has been 100% fine.  I am not sure what went on but think it might be because I was running so much slower than normal so my running form was probably a bit off.  Although I have had no bother with the hip flexor when running for several months (including 100km event) it was probably 95% fixed before the race as it did feel a bit uncomfortable in certain positions.  So I am guessing as it was not quite fixed it didn't take too much upsetting for it to cause pain.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Crawley 12 hour race

This was my first big ultra following a lot of 2016 injured or slowly returning from injury.   I did a 6 hour race early February as my longest run; a back to back track marathon and a few other marathons in training (as well as a few solo long runs).  My most recent marathon showed I was starting to get my speed back as it was just 14 minutes slower than my PB and I wasn't tapered.

I knew I was not going to be near my best but I was in better shape than I thought I would be when I entered so had my eye on the V40 12 hour track record of 114.4km - I actually did 119.8km as a 12 hour split at a track 24 hour but the times were not submitted so it's a fairly unoffical record but would be nice to have my name on the DUV website! 
A selection of my race snacks

Spenser kindly offered to crew for me - he has seen me in a state crying during a 24 hour race before so at least he knew what he was letting himself in for.   This was a totally different experience to having my husband there.  Normally Phil will sit in his chair playing games on his phone getting up when I bark orders at him for food/drink and popping off to McDonalds for meals!  Spenser was so much more involved (he is an ultra runner so knows the score) he was timing my laps constantly; giving me feed back on if I needed to speed up or slow down; giving me drinks/ food when I didn't ask for them because he knew I needed them; offering encouragement when I felt like s*** and when I felt good and persuading me to run a bit harder when I had nothing left to give.  Having someone like that certainly helps get the best out of yourself and I am so grateful to him for giving up his bed for the night as the race started at 8pm.

When we started the 24 hour runners had already be going for 8 hours; some of them were still running strongly; I hoped I would be that strong in 8 hours time.

My usual plan for a 12/24 hour is 1 hour run 1 lap walk.  Spenser suggested 5km run 1 lap walk as I get breaks more often and more opportunities to recover.  I was not totally on board with this as I felt that there would be too much walking so I wouldn't cover enough distance.  More walking / rest means the inevitable fade is delayed and legs stay fresher for longer but is the extra time spent walking greater than the time saved from fading later than usual??? So the plan was to start with 5km run 1 lap walk but possibly revise it.

The first 5km went really quickly, I didn't need my walk but the idea is that you walk before you need it then it takes longer before you get to that stage where all you want to do is walk!  As I had tapered for this race my first few laps were a bit fast as my legs were raring to go; it took a mile or so to get into a sensible pace.

Next 5km and time for a powerbar, that 5km went v quickly too.  Pretty much on target so all good.  From now on I would have something small like a Jaffa cake on my half half hour (ish) walk and something a bit more (powerbar or 9bar) on the hour.  This went out the window after about 5 hours when I started feeling a bit full so couldn't stomach food for a while; that's when the chocolate soya milk is cracked open; this always goes down well.

having a walk - photo Jon Lavis
The walk breaks continued to come round quickly.  I found that because I was only having to run for 
5km I was running a bit faster than if I was running for an hour before a break.  After around 4.5 
hours I was starting to have to work a bit harder to maintain pace but I knew at 6 hours I could slow down as I had one fewer laps per hour to cover so I pushed on to the 6 hour mark knowing I had could back off the pace a bit after that.  As I was only running 5km at a time I wasn't having to work hard for too long.This may have been a mistake.  Maybe I should not have worked so hard in that 6th hour as I was ahead of schedule so could have backed off a bit to save energy.

It was a relief to beable to ease off a little at the half way mark; it was also a good feeling to be past halfway and very soon only a marathon to go.  At that point I was feeling quite good and the thought of another a marathon to go felt very doable.  The thing is; a marathon towards the end of an ultra is a totally different matter to a stand alone marathon and takes significantly longer!  

Up until 9 hours I was hitting my target number of laps (or slightly more) but then the slippery slope began.  My pace was dropping off which was allowed but I wasn't sure if I was loosing too much.  It is so easy to loose all the gain you have made in the first 3/4 of the race.

I had been putting it off for quite some time but had to go to the proper toilet.  It was occupied so I had to go to the other changing room to find another.  The previous person had made a mess which needed clearing up before I could sit down so I ended up loosing 5 mins on that's stop.  Once I got going again there was a big drop off of about 5s per lap.  I am not sure if the stop was to blame or if it was just that point in the race so would have happened anyway.  Laps for the 9th hour were down due to the stop but I had 5 spare laps in the plan for stops so it was OK to loose a couple for that toilet stop.

With just under 3 hours to go this is where it pays to have someone telling you what to do ....try to keep up with the guy in the white shirt; lets have a big effort for the next 5km; handing you food/ drink because you forget you need something etc,  as well as that having a someone find out how many laps you have done and working out what you need to do was a massive help as the brain struggles this late on! 

5am - photo Jon Lavis
After 9.30 my Garmin 735xt beeped low battery so I plugged it in to my portable charger on the next walk break and unplugged on the following one.  I had tested it at home where 30 mins gave quite a lot of charge so I assumed it would be enough. The flaw with this was that I wasn't using it just left it sat in the kitchen when I was testing.  Needless to say at 10.40 my Garmin died totally.  By this stage my laps (I was pressing lap on the Garmin every lap to see my lap time) were so slow it was depressing so I didn't bother charging it up again.  As the race was chip timed I knew I could get my splits later.  

Each hour the leaderboard was updated with distance in miles.  Looking at my 10 hour distance I didn't think I was going to get my target as I had slowed so much.  With around 90 minutes to go Spenser told me how many laps I needed to do.  I was trying to do the calculations but couldn't figure to out; it sounded like too many though given how slow I was going.

Falling asleep - photo Jon Lavis
My quads were killing which was part of the reason why I was so slow so gave in and took some ibuprofen in the hope that it would ease the pain.  About 20 mins later my laps got a bit faster for a short time so that must have been the Pepsi and drugs kicking in! In addition as the end was in sight I was able to give a bit more but soon I had nothing left.

The countdown started from I think 16 laps to go with around an hour or so to do them in. I used the official clock to time my laps and then do a quick calculation to find that it was quite possible provided I didn't get cramp or have to go to the toilet or something! 

When I had my last walk there was about 5 laps to go to the target so I knew I had got it.  Goal achieved with 20 minutes spare.  Those last 20 minutes were slow and painful.  I should have been happy but I was in too much pain and was trying to keep movingly forward faster than others who were walking. 

With about 5 minutes to go I was trying to figure out where I would finish.  I wanted to finish near the tent so I wouldn't have to walk too far once I had finished.  It looked like I probably would just pass it so there was no incentive to 'sprint' for the last few minutes as the further I went the further I would have to walk back to the tent.

When the whilst blew I was about 50m away so not too bad.  I dropped my beanbag so that the final fraction of a lap could be measured then hobbled to the tent for a nice sit down. 

Final distance was 117.4km.  
1st lady (approx. 20 miles ahead of 2nd)

Nearly finished - photo Wendy Edwards
4th overall

I was very happy with that as I felt I gave it my all.  I wasn't sure going in what I would manage as I hadn't been over 40 miles in around 18 months so I thought I might suffer badly after that- I did but it could have been a lot worse. 

1st 6 hours  156 laps
2nd 6 hours 137.75 but a couple of laps were lost to the toilet.
For such a long race that sort of positive split is fairly normal for me.  I think if I were to start slower I might have slightly more event splits but am not sure as after 8 hours running regardless of speed I'm going to be tired and slow down! 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Running Reborn

In March 2016 I got injured which is why there have been no running bogs for a while.  I started back running again in September just a couple of times a week for a few miles.  By November I was able to run on consecutive days; do a little bit of speed work and some medium long runs.  I have now done a couple of steady paced marathons but still feel there is a long way to go to get back my speed and endurance.

My sports doctor suggested that I get my running form analysed properly not just the Physio watching me run on the treadmill for a few minutes which he had done in the past.  There were a few options out there which involved video, fancy technology and treadmills.  I don't run very well on a treadmill so when I found Shane did similar but running outside that was the obvious choice especially as his website had testamonials from some top ultra runners.

The session began with a bit of chat about my running history and goals.  Shane is an ultra runner himself so I didn't get that look I usually get from Physio's / doctors when I talk about running for 24 hours;  he totally gets it!

We went to a nearby park for the session.  I ran a lap (approx 400m) warm up then another at a steady pace followed by a final lap at a hard pace.  The surface was a bit uneven for a tarmac runner and there were some wet leaves so there wasn't a great deal of difference between my easy and hard pace!  On my shins I had Vimove sensors and was videoed on each lap to analyse later. 

The  Vimove showed various interesting data like how hard each foot hits the ground, contact time of each foot, acceleration and cadence.  My Garmin shows some of this but doesn't show the difference between right and left.

I'm not totally symetrical but apparently not too bad.  My cadence at a steady pace was 177 and faster pace 192.  I knew that 180 was about right and know form my Garmin that I am usually a bit lower for slow runs and higher for fast runs.  I didn't realise it mattered but Shane explained why 180 is the key figure for ALL paced runs so I need to work on getting it lower for the faster runs.  In addition on long runs I need to try to keep the cadence the same.  Obviously this session was not long enough to test what's happens to cadence after 20 miles but apparently it gets lower and the stride stays the same.  What should be happening is cadence should stay at 180 but stride get shorter.  This should then help save the quads a bit.

The Vimove data could be used in conjunction with the video and observations Shane made about my running.  I'm not as bad as I thought I was but do have a few things to work on which should help improve my effciency.
1. Head position -  I look down at the ground when I am running, should be looking ahead.  I think I do think as I am scared of tripping on things.
2.  Arms -  they are in the right position and don't cross over he centre line but are not doing anything particularly useful
3. Left foot - has a slight heal strike, right foot is fine.

He explained why each of these things should change and why they would improve efficiently which I am not going to go into here but it was all explained clearly and made a lot of sense.

There are other things to work on as well which we did not go into this time - can't change everything at once, need to get the basics right.

 My final run was another lap trying to focus on the 3 things above.  I was videoed and got the left foot thing right, arms were better but head wasn't - I blame that on the surface being uneven so found it hard to keep my eyes off the trail just infront!

I have done a few runs since the session and a finding it easier to make running changes than making changes to my swimming.  I think the head position is going to be the hardest - each time I think about it I realise I am looking down! 

It was a great session and well worth the long drive. I would definitely recommend Shane if you are looking to improve running form/ efficiency and reduce chance of injury 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Windermere end to end swim - 10.5 miles

This is going to be a long blog so if you just want to read about the swim skip to the 3rd photo!

At the start of the summer when I realised I wasn't  going to be running marathons/ ultras for a while I needed a challenge to keep me motivated.  At this stage I would like to point out that I am not really a swimmer!  I learnt to swim when I was young so have always been confident in the water but not fast and I only ever did a mile or a km.  Last year I picked up swimming again and tried open water for the first time wondering why it had taken me so long to try it as I loved it!  I did 4 events (including a 10km) which I enjoyed despite being nearly last so the next step up was Windermere.

My biggest worry was being cold as I found Coniston very cold last year but over the winter I seem to have toughen up (or fattened up) as when I got in the lake in May I was not as cold as I had been last year.   I deliberately swam without my wetsuit about 4 times (when the temperature got to around 20 degrees) to try to get myself acclimatised - only an hour but it all helps!  I had also not worn my heat seeker vest apart from for the first swim of the season as I wanted to save it for Windermere to give me some extra warmth.  

I had a couple of video swim analysis sessions with swim therapy to try to improve my technique and did a swim day with Julie Bradshaw    These were really helpful but I find it hard to change what I have been doing for years so still have a lot to work on. 

In June I did the great east swim (10km).  I have never known anything so choppy, there were proper waves so this was really hard work and slow.  July was the 7 mile swim at Isoman which was another choppy one then early August the same 10km that I did last year.  Although I am significantly faster in the pool compared to last year I was only 5 minutes faster for the 10km which was a little dissapointing.

I have been training in my school pool and at Loughborough university but the university pool has closed over the summer for refurb so I joined David Lloyd on their summer membership - it's a bit of a trek but it meant I could swim whenever I wanted and didn't have to rely on finding someone to swim with at school.  I used the outdoor pool for my long swims including 9 miles - lucky the lifeguards change regularly so no one knew how long I was there (just under 6 hours in case you are wondering!!).

The training was done so with a couple of weeks to go I was just worrying about being cold and how choppy it would be as I'm not sure my shoulders would cope with anything like the 10km or worse!  Then with a week to go I had wetsuit issues so ended up going with my old one which is not as flexible in the shoulders but at least it wasn't going to fall apart or rip my neck to shreds!

Weather watch started a week before and was looking ok. No heatwave like I had been hoping for but the water was 19 degrees on the day with little wind and the sun was shining so I couldn't ask for more in the UK.  

I met Alistair and Leon from swim your swim who were going to be guiding me on the rib boat and looking after me for the day.  They loaded the boat up with my stuff and I was off at 8.25am.  It was a beautiful day and the water felt lovely.   The boat was to the side of me so I didn't need to worry about sighting meaning I could just swim along and enjoy the scenery.  Leon was driving and Alistair looking after my feeds/watching me!

The plan was stop every hour for the first half for fueling then every 45 minutes.  After an hour Alistair did his whistle to attract my attention - that first hour went very quickly and I was loving the still quiet lake.  Because of my worry about getting cold I had planned and practiced fueling only on liquids to save time as chewing takes forever.  I had packed solids as well just in case.  In the pool long swims I never really drank enough as I didn't want to get out to go to the toilet but that's not an issue in the lake!! I knew I needed to make an effort to drink more so first stop I had nearly half the 1 litre carton of chocolate soya milk - this was a lot more than usual so I felt a bit bloated. 

The next hour passed fairly quickly too - I nearly managed to finish off the litre of chocolate soya milk but couldn't squeeze it all down.  The lake was still quiet as we were at the south end but each time a boat went by there were waves which were quite fun as I knew they would not last long.  One thing I found a bit strange was that I was constantly being watched as I was swimming.  This meant that I felt a little embarrassed about having a wee the first few times time!! I am sure no one can see when you are in your wetsuit but that didn't stop me feeling self conscious!! 

Next hour uneventful in that I was still loving it just plodding along enjoying the scenery.  Each time we stopped Alistair pointed out landmarks or where we were heading next.  Bottle of Coke at the 3 hours as I thought a bit of caffeine might be useful! Here the car ferry was pointed out.  This is a slightly tricky part as the ferry has to be in the right place before you can pass due to chains one side (can't remember the details) so I was told we would stop just before the ferry and wait for the right time to go.

Luckily I didn't need to wait long and then was told to sprint!! I don't sprint at the best of times but after around 9km my sprint was a joke!! Get past the ferry then along and round the corner a bit to meet Phil.  Stopped here for a chat and some lucosaide.  Think I only had about half of this as only 45 minutes had passed since my previous feed so there didn't seem much space inside me!! Each time I was offered food I declined as I didn't fancy any and felt pretty full from the fluids due to drinking more than usual.  Alistair didn't seem very happy that I wasn't eating said I was burning lots of calories - thought he might be able to tempt me with an mini sausage but as I'm veggie that didn't work!! I said I would have a gel next time.

The next 45 minute stop came round really quickly and like a good girl I had a chocolate caffeine gel and bottle of OTE (energy drink with electrolytes).  I think it was around here that my right shoulder was hurting.  Both shoulders had been aching but now the right one was pinching.  Alistair suggested changing my hand entry which helped a bit.  

Next stop was half a banana (it was a big one) with vanilla soya milk.  As I was now stopping every 45 minutes I wasn't able to squeeze as much in! I didn't really want any food but thought I better do as I was told!

My garmin was playing naughty games.  It measures in yards until it gets to 10000 then it switches to miles but only to the nearest mile.  It just wouldn't budge from 8 miles.  I was not sure if this was because I was so slow or if it had lost the satellite (it did this at Consiton). I know the garmin is not accurate but it's nice to see progress.  I think it was this section where I saw Alistair and Leon tucking into some Jaffa cakes, mmmm I could manage a Jaffa cake! I find when I am running and don't want food I can usually squeeze a Jaffa cake down. Previously they had been having crisps, mini sausages and what looked like a pasta meal in a tuperware container - none of those interested me but the Jaffa cakes did!!!

At the next stop I had the rest of the banana and I think more vanilla soya milk then asked how much further.  I thought that I must be at least at 9 miles now so would have an hour and a half tops left to go. I was told about 3 hours or maybe 2.5 hours.  That was a real low.  Much like the Edinburgh marathon where I thought I had been past the 25 mile marker and that the one I could see in the distance was 26 but it was actually 25!  I'm not sure if I was more annoyed that I would be swimming for another 3 hours when I was geared up for just over an hour or that my finish time would be starting with a 9.  Although I didn't really have a time goal I was kind of hoping to be between 7 and 8 hours.

I set off in a bit of a huff.  I couldn't work out why it was still 3 hours to go.  Had I really been that slow since the approx half way point (3.45 ish) ? Were they winding me up? Were they using a formula such as double your half way time and add 90 mins? Was the 'halfway' point maybe a bit less than half way? My shoulder was still hurting and with the thought of another 3 hours I was a bit grumpy and decided that I would ask for paracetamol when we next stopped.  When I am doing long swims I do have a tendency to dawdle a bit so thought  I had better focus and make a concerted effort to try harder rather than tootling along enjoying the scenery.  Maybe that's why I had slowed down - I had just lost focus and was enjoying the journey too much!! 

Every so often I would look ahead; it was now a lot busier with boats, jet ski, kayaks etc which was quite nice as it was something else to look at! 45 minutes came and went but no sign of the whistle and no sign of Alistair moving to the front of the boat for my food.  I wonder if he's got his time wrong or maybe he can see I'm on a mission and doesn't want to stop me!! Or maybe he was thinking as I was so slow he would try and get me to last an hour between feeds so we only needed to stop a couple more times?? I didn't need anything so was not bothered and if I did I could have just stopped and asked.

After an hour I was stopped.  Had another bottle of OTE and a chocolate gel.  Then Leon said 'you need to get to the beach in under an hour then I win' or something like that.  I'm a bit confused as an hour had passed since I was told 2.5-3 hours so how can it only be an hour away.  I asked if it was my last stop; yes it was.  That was dissapointing as I had a chocolate bar I had saved for my last stop but I had already had the gel and drink so if I had any more it might have come back up again! 

Set off in much better spirits. It was just over 7 hours on the watch so maybe I could sneak under 8?  Never had the paracetamol as by the time I stopped my shoulder was a bit better.  I was still a bit confused about timings but didn't care as I was on the home straight now and was going to do this.  

Fairly soon I could see what I thought might have been the ferry jetty in Ambleside.  I knew the finish was not far after that but not far walking is quite different to not far swimming.  Then out the corner of my eye I saw something white when I was breathing.  On the next breath I had a longer look..... It was a xxxxxx swan.  These creatures scare me; they hiss and have caused me to stop in running races to wait for someone to come along to escort me past! The last thing I needed was to be dealing with one of these.  A naughty word might have come out of my mouth and I 'sprinted' to try to get my head I was sprinting but really don't think that was the reality after 10 miles!  

Not long after shaking off the swan I was stopped.  The tree I was aiming for at the finish was pointed out and then I was told to go as hard as I could because we were near the jetty and a boat was coming.  Got past that ok but then lost sight of the tree.  The boat was still with me so just stuck to that until I could get a better view and could see Phil standing there.  

A couple of minutes later and I was there...the hardest bit of all the day was getting up!! Finished in 7.40 nicely under 8 hours so very happy. 

I can't thank Leon and Alistair enough, they were amazing.  I think they must have been on a 'how to lie convincingly' course as they were constantly encouraging me and saying I was looking strong/ doing well when I'm sure I wasn't!

For anyone thinking of dong this don't think any more - do it! It was an amazing experience and although it wasn't easy it was not as hard as I expected and was easier than running for that long ( and that is coming from an ultra runner!).  I feel so lucky that I have had this opportunity.

Post swim my arms hurt a lot, getting the seatbelt on was hard work as was washing my hair in the shower after - my arms didn't want to move!  Two days later they still hurt but are much better.

What would I do differently? Not sure really but I do know I still have a lot to do working on my technique but I knew that before.  I also need to make my shoulders more bullet proof as if it had been choppy I may have needed a lot of painkillers.

Would I do it again? Yes definatly but I would want to do it faster so would need to get faster over the winter if I want to do it again next year.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Ameo powerbreather

Following the tri expo in March I was sent the Ameo powerbreather to try.  This is a snorkel with a difference.

Why use a snorkel for swim training?

You can focus just on technique and not worry about breathing.  If you struggle to get enough air in then using a snorkel helps.  I tend to only breath one side and notice that my shoulder on the other side works harder so using the snorkel evens things out.  


How is the powerbreather different?

The Ameo fresh air system means that you are always breathing in fresh air.  With a traditional snorkel you breath out then breath the same air back in. With the powerbreather fresh air comes in through the  the two tubes and used air goes out through the front part.

Due to the membrane there is a little resistance (a bit like the lung trainers asthmatics use) so your lungs get a workout.  This is not really that noticeable when using it.

Depending on the model you choose there are various attachments.  One which is longer for open water - I have not tried this yet as the lake is not warm enough! Another for doing tumble turns so the water doesn't get in -  I have not tried this yet as due to my running injury I am not allowed to do tumble turns! 


Once you know how it works it is very easy to fit.  The straps at the side can be adjusted to your size.  The tubes twist up and down when you take it on and off and the round bit (with the E on) at the back is tightened once you have it in place.  First few times I didn't tighten it enough so it kept wobbling around but when you get it in place and tightened properly it stays in place.  It is best to wear with a hat so your hair doesn't get tangled in it.

Why I love the powerbreather?

It has enabled me to focus on my arms doing front crawl and watch my hand entry without needing to turn my head every few stokes.   

I have always struggled with butterfly partly due to it being hard but partly due to not being able to get enough air in.  I have recently started doing butterfly again; it is stil hard but now I can get in all the air I need just focusing on what my arms are doing and trying to get those right.

I find that when wearing it I can totally zone out and drift off into a world of my own which is quiet therapeutic. 

Due to the membrane which provides some resistance to breathing my lungs are getting a bit of a bonus workout too without me really knowing it.   I find I can now quite comfortably breath every 6 rather than every 4 strokes due to being more efficient.